Probate & Guardianship

, Probate & Guardianship

We Frequently Handle Complex Florida Probate Cases

For clients with probate needs, the most effective attorney understands the rules and procedures that are unique to probate court and have experience at trial. At Mateer & Harbert, we provide probate assistance to a variety of clients: personal representatives, individual heirs and beneficiaries, charitable and nonprofit organizations interested in an estate or trust, fiduciaries, estate, and trust creditors, and financial institutions. We approach each case with care and discretion. Our attorneys provide counsel about the conflict and a carefully considered strategy that positions our client for success.

Is Probate Necessary in Florida?

In Florida, anyone who has a will must file it with the local circuit court within ten days of knowledge of the death. The court will decide if a probate court proceeding is needed. There are many assets of the deceased person that can go to their new owner without probate court. Some types of non-probate property may be held in joint tenancy by more than one person. For example, assets for which the person designated a beneficiary, such as a bank account, a retirement account, or life insurance proceeds and assets held in a living trust. Probate may not be necessary when certain final expenses are higher than the value of the property that would go through probate.

Summary Administration

Summary administration is an option if the death occurred more than two years ago, or that is all the property that would have to go through probate with a value of less than $75,000. The executor files a petition for summary administration. If there is a surviving spouse, they must sign and verify the request. The petition states that the estate qualifies for summary administration. The deceased person’s assets are listed, as well as a list of who inherits which assets. Should the court decide the estate qualifies for summary administration, the court will issue an order to release the property to the party who will inherit it.

Formal Administration

The executor nominated in the will asks the court to be appointed personal representative of the estate. The court issues a document known as letters of administration. It gives the personal representative the right to settle the estate. The personal representative inventories the assets, pays debts and taxes, and distributes the remainder to the people who inherit the assets. The court receives a final accounting, and anyone that objects to the accounting can do so in court. The personal representative files receipts with the court, and the court then closes the estate. The court relieves the personal representative of any further responsibilities. The formal administration process can take from 6 months to a year.

Consult with a Florida probate attorney if you think a will contest is possible. A lawyer can help determine the best course of action for the client involved in a complex estate case. For example, if there are heirs that cannot be located, if the estate has many creditors, or if it is insolvent.


Guardianships are necessary when a person becomes incapacitated and there is no person legally authorized to manage affairs, pay bills, and arrange for personal care. Guardianships are also necessary when an underage person’s assets exceed specific amounts. Mateer & Harbert’s estate planning lawyers can petition for a guardian’s court appointment and advise on the guardian’s duties. For more information regarding our probate & guardianship practice, contact our Orlando office today and speak to an attorney at 407-425-9044.

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